This year I was once again able to see the five Best Animated Short Film nominees in the theater, which I still strongly recommend you do when they come to a theater near you, even though you can currently watch four of the five online. A bonus if you go to the theater, though - you get to see the five "highly commended" shorts that didn't make the cut as nominees: Varmints (UK), John and Karen (UK), Gopher Broke (U.S.), Skhizein (France), and Hot Dog (U.S.). Of these, John and Karen was possibly my favorite (watch it online). Varmints was visually arresting but a bit long at 24 minutes, and Skhizein was a Charlie Kaufman film from start to finish. The other two - both American films - were decent at best, unimaginative and immature at worst.
La Maison en Petits Cubes - (Japan, 12 min):
- My personal pick for the best of this year's bunch, La Maison en Petits Cubes is a heartbreaking and evocative story of an elderly man hanging on to a lifetime of memories as his house gradually floods. Animated in what appears to be watercolor or pencil, it also boasts one of the best musical scores I heard all year (short film or feature film), and it brought many in the theater to tears. Tragically, La Maison en Petits Cubes is the only one of the shorts currently unavailable for viewing online. Update: I found it - watch it here!
- A cute romantic story about a lovelorn public restroom attendant, this black-and-white sketched film is curiously captivating. It may be a minute or two longer than necessary, but the ending is a great payoff and I admire its simplicity.
Oktapodi - (France, 3 min)
- Short, sweet, and sharply edited, this screwball story of octopus love looked fantastic on the big screen. I'm sure there was a temptation to make this longer, but the filmmakers probably didn't want to run out of steam and lose the comedic momentum. If Finding Nemo hadn't already been made, it's possible this might have been stretched into a feature.
Presto - (U.S., 5 min)
- Most everyone who saw WALL*E in the theater has already had the pleasure of seeing Pixar's Presto. For me, the second time around wasn't nearly as funny. Cute rabbit, but a little too repetitive for my taste, and it seemed to be playing for cheap laughs more than anything else. I don't know, I guess I'm just a little annoyed that this is the likely winner, possibly due to an overflow of love for WALL*E. Then again, Pixar shorts have lost in previous years...
This Way Up - (UK, 9 min)
- A pair of undertakers (father and son) run into all kinds of trouble on their way to the cemetery in this macabre comedy. It's impressively animated and consistently entertaining, but it didn't have me rolling in the aisles like seemingly everyone else in the theater. Nonetheless, it's an above average short film and deserves to be nominated.
I'm thinking it will come down to Presto or La Maison en Petits Cubes. The latter is far and away my preference, but I'm just too nervous about Pixar's power, so Presto remains my prediction as the winner. Hope I'm wrong...